• PERSPECTIVE The Return Of RFID Certification • VERTICAL

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• PERSPECTIVE The Return Of RFID Certification • VERTICAL
D E D I C AT E D T O R A D I O F R E Q U E N C Y I D E N T I F I C AT I O N A N D I T S B U S I N E S S A P P L I C AT I O N S
• PERSPECTIVE
The Return Of RFID Certification page 9
• VERTICAL FOCUS: ENERGY
Benefits Fuel RFID Deployments page 24
• PRODUCT DEVELOPMENTS
New RFID Laundry Tags And Solutions page 32
www.rfidjournal.com
March/April 2013
• INSIDE THE LABS
‘Checking Services’ Standard For Automatically
Verifying E-Pedigree Data page 38
In-depth RFID Presentations
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contents
features
COVER STORY
Vol. 10, No. 2
March/April 2013
EDITORIAL
16
Eliminating Waste
Businesses are adopting RFID to identify
and eradicate the inefficiencies that
impede growth and profits.
By John Edwards
24
Benefits Fuel RFID Deployments
Oil and gas companies are adopting radio
frequency identification technology to
better manage assets and inventory,
improve drilling and maintenance
operations, and protect workers in
dangerous environments. But industry
experts say they’re missing out on a
powerful application. By Jennifer Zaino
Mark Roberti, Editor
[email protected]
Andrea Linne, Executive Editor/Magazine
[email protected]
Paul Prince, Executive Editor/News
[email protected]
VERTICAL FOCUS: ENERGY
John Hull, Art Director
[email protected]
Rich Handley, Managing Editor
[email protected]
Beth Bacheldor, Senior Editor
[email protected]
Mary Catherine O’Connor
Senior Editor
[email protected]
Claire Swedberg, Senior Editor
[email protected]
Edson Perin, Brasil Editor
[email protected]
John Edwards
Contributing Writer
[email protected]
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENTS
Rhea Wessel
Contributing Writer/Europe
[email protected]
32
Jennifer Zaino
Contributing Writer
[email protected]
RFID JOuRnAL EVEnTS
Kimberly A. Ray, VP of Events
[email protected]
Cheryl Johnson
Director of Events Management
[email protected]
Coming Clean About RFID
Laundry Systems
Technology advancements, lower costs
and complete solutions are among the
reasons to consider automating the
tracking of linens, towels and uniforms.
By Bob Violino
Debbie Hughes
Editorial Director of Events
[email protected]
Deborah Lambert
Administrative Assistant of Events
[email protected]
departments
columns
SALES
Alan McIntosh, Director of Sales
[email protected]
Matt Singer, Director of Sales
[email protected]
SuBSCRIPTIOnS
[email protected]
ARTICLE REPRInTS
[email protected]
RFID JOuRnAL LLC
Editorial office:
38 Kings Highway, Suite 1
Hauppauge, NY 11788
5 Editor’s note
Waste not.
6 Out in Front
When things talk to one another;
warning: damaged goods!; saving
workers during oil-rig accidents.
9 Perspective
The return of RFID certification;
making the RFID market more
transparent.
Mark Roberti, Chief Executive
[email protected]
41 Software Savvy
Document your software
deployment design. By Ken Traub
42 Tuned In
Don’t just automate—innovate!
By Bill Hardgrave
45 Ashton’s View
The crisis of consumption.
By Kevin Ashton
Kathleen Knocker, Business Manager
[email protected]
Sonja Valenta, Director of Marketing
[email protected]
Kathy Roach, Marketing Coordinator
[email protected]
Lydia Sum, Administrative Assistant
[email protected]
Contents © 2013 RFID Journal LLC
38 Inside the Labs
Checking Services for e-pedigrees.
By Mark Harrison
COVER ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCKPHOTO
www.rfidjournal.com
Coming soon to RFIDJournal.com
Most-Read Stories in March
• Omni-ID Sues Xerafy and RFID
TagSource
These live interactive programs offer a
convenient way to learn why and how
companies are employing RFID to
improve the way they do business.
Presenters will answer your individual
questions. Also, be sure to check out past Virtual Events,
including Using NFC to Enhance Products and Improve
the Customer Experience, RFID In Manufacturing, RFID
in the Supply Chain and RFID in Health Care.
• International RFID Institute Prepares
Certification Program
• Microchip Markets RFID Technology
That Transmits via the Human Body
The Inside Scoop
• NDSU Researchers Develop Method
For Embedding RFID in Paper
What are end users saying
behind the scenes? Why
should the RFID community
be optimistic about the
industry? Who’s spreading
misinformation? Get insight
and perspective at the
RFID Journal Blog.
• DPR Construction Uses RFID
Building-Security Solution
• RFID in Retail: Hear how retailers worldwide are
using RFID to track items and improve inventory
accuracy, to ensure products are on the shelves
when customers want to buy them.
May 16, 11 am to 1 pm EDT
Top 10 Search Terms
On RFIDJournal.com
Find products that can help you
deploy RFID successfully. Here’s
an example: Xerafy’s Titanium Metal Skin is an extremely flexible and small RFID label for tagging both
metallic and nonmetallic assets—from smartphones to
pharmaceuticals—that
require accurate, secure
identification. It is compliant with the EPC Gen
2 and ISO 18000-6C
standards, and designed to be a cost-effective way to monitor
items. The Titanium
Metal Skin can be used for asset tracking, product authentication, inventory management and other applica-
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Walmart
NFC
Cost
Airbus
Construction
Laundry
Jewelry
Disney
History
Library
Worldwide RFID Deployment Map
RFID Journal’s interactive map shows how
widespread RFID adoption has become. The
dots are color-coded according to industry, including aerospace, agriculture, apparel, defense,
health care, logistics, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and retail. You can get more information about a particular deployment by clicking
on one of the dots—a pop-up will appear.
To put your company’s RFID deployment on the
map, click here and fill out the form. It takes
only a few minutes.
2
“
“
tune in online
Ideas Exchange
RFID Journal maintains
an Ask the Experts forum,
where you can submit
questions about RFID
technology and its
applications. Your questions
will be answered by RFID
Journal editors or outside
experts. Recent questions
include:
• What types of tags and
readers should we use to
monitor race horses?
• Does the use of RFID
affect an organization’s
operational efficiency?
• Is it possible to read TID
and EPC tags with a single
command?
• Can RFID read 140 pieces
per minute with different
SKUs?
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
See the complete table of contents at
www.rfidjournal.com/howtochoose
How to Choose
the Right RFID Technology
for Your Application
Choosing the proper radio frequency identification system
for your application can be a daunting task. Now, for the first
time, RFID Journal provides a guide to choosing the right
system for your needs, and explains the pros and cons of
different RFID solutions for different applications.
Save yourself hundreds of hours of research time
with this new guide for just $395, or only $199 with
a new membership to RFID Journal
This report can be purchased at the RFID Journal booth at RFID Journal LIVE! 2013
www.rfidjournal.com/howtochoose
CONNECT
WITH THE RFID COMMUNITY
ONLINE,
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The most robust virtual community of RFID professionals
CHECK IT OUT TODAY!
› Product searches:
Find the right product to meet your needs.
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Post your own blog, or comment on others.
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daily planner:
Schedule meetings and plan your itinerary.
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Available for iPhone and Android phones.
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SET UP YOUR PROFILE TODAY—VISIT www.rfidconnect.com
editor’s note
PHOTO: TOM HURST | RIFID JOURNAL
Waste Not
Simply put, waste is a waste.
Companies hate it. Governments struggle to reduce it.
Even individuals try to minimize it. Yet, the amount of
waste in the world is staggering.
Consider these facts:
• 50 percent of all food produced
globally is never consumed
• Administrative errors cost U.S.
retailers $4.9 billion annually
• Hospitals lose an average of
$5,000 per bed per year
• Nearly 30 million pieces of
luggage are mishandled each
year, costing airlines an estimated $2.9 billion
• Roughly 8 percent to 10 percent of reusable transport
items are replaced each year.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Waste
is rampant. The reason, according to Carlo
Nizam, Airbus’ head of value chain visibility
and auto-ID, is that companies have “little data
or limited visibility of how their processes are
performing, so they don’t necessarily know
where the waste is.” And if you don’t know
where the waste is, it is hard to get rid of it.
In this issue’s cover story, “Eliminating
Waste,” we look at how companies in different
industries are using radio frequency identification to pinpoint and reduce waste of all kinds
(see page 16). Airbus, for instance, introduced
an RFID-based tool-management application,
so workers don’t have to wait to check tools in
or out of a tool crib. Memove, a retailer in Brazil,
deployed an RFID solution to improve shipment verification, which means employees no
longer have to count and recount inventory to
ensure the proper items are sent from its
distribution centers to stores.
The oil and gas industry has begun to tackle
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
waste, thanks to recent technology advances
that make it possible to read RFID tags on metal
and in harsh environments. In this issue’s
Vertical Focus (page 24), we explore how companies are using RFID to track equipment and
improve asset-utilization rates. This is particularly important in remote regions, where logistics is a challenge and missing parts can result
in downtime that can cost millions of dollars.
There is also plenty of waste in commercial
laundry operations, which is why companies
have been RFID-tagging and tracking uniforms
and linens for more than 15 years. Here, too, the
industry is benefiting from technology advances, which have led to lower prices and
improved performance. As a result, casinos,
fitness clubs, hospitals, hotels, theme parks and
other organizations have begun using RFID to
track laundry items, to improve asset visibility
and reduce the number of stolen towels (see
Product Developments on page 32).
In fact, RFID products and services in general
have evolved rapidly to address waste of all
kinds, and many of these solutions will be on
display at RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, our annual
conference and exhibition, which will be held
in Orlando, Fla., from April 30 to May 2. In
addition, attendees will hear firsthand how
Bloomingdale’s, Celebration Health, Speedy
Services and other organizations are doing away
with waste. I encourage you to join us there
and find out how RFID can help your business
eliminate waste.
Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor
5
out in front
When Things Talk to One Another
SENSORS
Lower-power, wireless mesh-networking devices will enable objects to communicate
without conventional RFID readers.
Baradwaj Vigraham (pictured) and Peter Kinget
developed an energy-efficient wireless transceiver for the EnHANTs project.
there’s a lot of talk about the Internet of Things, but
researchers at New York’s Columbia University have a
different vision of the future. In their view, objects won’t
communicate with the Internet but rather with each other.
And they are creating low-power active devices that will
enable this to happen.
The collaborative research project is called EnergyHarvesting Active Networked Tags. EnHANTs are small, flexible devices that gather energy from light, vibration or other
environmental sources. The goal is to make these devices
inexpensive, so they can be attached to items, such as books,
clothing, toys, furniture and maybe even produce.
The key to EnHANTs is to be able to transmit up to 30 feet
(9 meters) without consuming much energy, says Baradwaj
Vigraham, a Columbia doctoral student working on that
challenge with Peter Kinget, a professor of electrical engineering. They have created a wireless transceiver that uses
ultra-wideband communication methods to send short
pulses or bursts of information. The device can, for example,
communicate 2 megabits of data per second by sending 3- to
4-nanosecond pulses every half-microsecond. “Because you
are communicating in bursts, up to 95 percent of the time
6
between pulses, the electronics can be shut down to save
power,” Vigraham says. The prototype is a system-on-chip
(SoC) design, which means most of its functionality is built
into the microchip, as opposed to having several components on a circuit board.
Other collaborators are working on energy-harvesting
devices or communication protocols and data-routing algorithms that will enable the devices to form mesh networks.
So instead of wandering around your house using a handheld reader to search for your missing black sock, you might
one day be able to message a network of all the objects in
your home that you are looking for that sock, and those
objects might be able to communicate with one another
until they locate the sock and message back that they found
it under the bed.
Vigraham presented a paper on the device at the IEEE
International Solid-State Circuits Conference meeting in
February. “I’m an academic, so I haven’t thought much about
the commercial possibilities,” he says. “But there are certainly
many potential applications.” In addition to finding household items, it could be used to track anything, from airline
baggage to IT equipment in large buildings. —Mark Roberti
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
CONSUMER
Warning: Damaged Goods!
A new tag designed by Cambridge Consultants could soon alert consumers
that a parcel has been dropped in transit.
with so many consumers shopping online, it’s volumes of 1 million, the bill of materials for
inevitable that some items will be dropped in the device would be just $2.50. And the
transit and broken. Often, the purchaser is accelerometer could be swapped for a temperunaware until he or she has signed for the pack- ature, pressure or humidity sensor.
The DropTag currently has no ID. The
age, taken it inside and unwrapped it. Tom
Lawrie-Fussey, business development manager device would simply communicate with the
at Cambridge Consultants, a product develop- consumer’s Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone
to indicate whether the
ment engineering and techpackaged item had been
nology consulting company,
dropped. But an ID could be
says his firm has come up
added, along with proper
with a solution. It’s called
security, so, for instance, a
DropTag, and it’s designed to
logistics company could use
let a consumer know if a
it to identify and track items
package has been dropped.
as well as to monitor their
The idea started with the
condition. The ID would
development of a Bluetooth
essentially transform the
device that would allow cars
DropTag into a Bluetooth
to talk to one another. But
RFID tag, similar to a Wi-Fi
when Lawrie-Fussey was
tag.
trying to determine how to
Lawrie-Fussey says the
demonstrate the prototype
device could also be
for customers during an
developed with Near-Field
“innovation day,” he realCommunication technology
ized how difficult that
instead of Bluetooth. “With
would be within the conNFC phones proliferating, I
straints of an office. So he
could easily see consumers
began devising other uses
Tom Lawrie-Fussey demonstrates DropTag.
accessing the data in a
for the technology.
DropTag via NFC,” he says.
“I came up with the idea
of tracking parcels, because many people have “We chose Bluetooth because of the longer
had the experience of receiving damaged read range. With Bluetooth, a driver could
goods, and it was easy to demonstrate,” he easily determine whether any of the packages
says. “We put the electronics in the box, in the back of the truck had been dropped.”
Cambridge Consultants is in discussions
wrapped it up and showed how our device
with several logistics companies interested in
could tell you the box had been dropped.”
The DropTag consists of an accelerometer commercializing the DropTag. It’s also talking
(similar to that in a smartphone), which can with firms that offer more expensive parceltell if a package has been dropped, a Bluetooth monitoring devices. So it might not be long
chip that can run algorithms on data from the before you know whether that flat-screen TV
accelerometer, a small printed circuit board has been tossed around in the back of a truck
and a small battery. Lawrie-Fussey says that in or treated with kid gloves. —M.R.
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
Saving Workers
During Oil-Rig
Accidents
Lives lost during
destruction of Mumbai
High North platform
in 2005:
22
Lives rescued during
destruction of Mumbai
High North platform in
2005:
362
Lives lost during
explosion aboard
Petrobras 36 platform
in 2001:
11
Lives rescued during
explosion aboard
Petrobras 36 platform
in 2001:
164
Lives lost during
explosion aboard
Deepwater Horizon
drilling rig in 2010:
11
Lives rescued during
explosion aboard
Deepwater Horizon
drilling rig in 2010:
115
—Rich Handley
7
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POWERED BY
perspective
THE STORY BEHIND THE NEWS
ADOPTION
The Return of RFID Certification
The International RFID Institute steps in to fill the hole left by CompTIA when it retired RFID+ certification.
In 2005, the Computing Technology Industry Association
(CompTIA) convened a group of subject-matter experts to
draft a certification test designed to indicate that those who
passed had a certain level of knowledge about RFID systems.
The effort was supported by AIM Global (the association for
automatic identification and mobility), RFID Journal and
several leading solution providers.
CompTIA RFID+ was launched in 2007, and several
training companies began offering courses to provide the
knowledge needed to pass the test. RFID Journal offered
training, in partnership with RFID4U, at RFID Journal LIVE!
events. Several hundred people took a fast-track course
during the events and passed the test.
But CompTIA felt the number of people being certified
was too small to continue to support RFID+, so at the end
of 2011, the organization officially retired the certification
program, leaving the industry without any means of guaranteeing the professionalism of RFID practitioners.
In April 2012, I convened a meeting of subject-matter
experts to discuss the prospect of creating a new body to
develop a certification test to replace CompTIA RFID+. Out
of that effort was born the International RFID Institute.
Sylvanus Bent, a software professional who runs Bent
Systems, was elected chairman, and I was elected co-chairman. The institute was formally launched in March.
Certification training will become more important as
the RFID industry matures. Today, there are relatively few
professionals who can deploy various types of RFID sys-
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
tems. As adoption ramps up, the need for more experienced
professionals will increase. Some systems integrators are
already struggling to hire RFID professionals.
CompTIA offered a single RFID test. The level of demand
did not warrant investing in development of additional
tests. The goal of the institute, however, is to develop a
foundational test that all RFID professionals must pass, as
well as additional certifications. While no decisions have
yet been made about what those certifications will cover,
they may include Near-Field Communication technology,
active RFID systems and sensor networks.
Many vendors have their own certification programs, and
the institute does not intend to compete with these. The
institute’s goal is not to say someone can program a
Motorola or an Impinj reader, for example, but rather the
certified professional understands the issues related to
setting up a reader and ensuring it works, and understands
the other concepts involved in successfully deploying an
RFID system.
The International RFID Institute is now recruiting
subject-matter experts to develop questions for the foundational certification test. We plan to hold a meeting in
conjunction with RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, which takes place
in Orlando, Fla., from April 30 to May 2. The institute
needs corporate members that will help fund the testdevelopment efforts and individuals who will help draft the
tests. It is up to the industry to get behind the efforts to
ensure professionalism in its ranks. —Mark Roberti
9
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perspective
ADOPTION
Making the RFID
Market More
Transparent
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO
End users and systems integrators
need more visibility into what products
are available and who makes them.
WhIle adoptIon of radio frequency identification is growing stronger, more companies
would likely be considering the technology if
they knew there were products that could meet
their requirements or companies that could
quickly develop solutions to meet their needs.
End users and systems integrators also would
like to feel confident that they are purchasing
technology from reputable companies.
According to the 2011 RFID Marketing
Strategies Report, produced by RFID Journal
and Burnell Reports, 84 percent of study
respondents said brand is important for RFID
purchasing decisions. Yet, only 35 percent of
end users recognized the top RFID brand. On
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
average, most companies were recognized by
less than 2 percent of end users. This means
there is very little transparency in the RFID
market. Potential buyers of RFID technology
cannot easily find the right sellers.
But transparency is something of a chickenand-egg scenario. Solution providers don’t
want to waste money advertising their wares if
no one is interested in buying them, and no
one can buy them if they don’t know they exist.
RFID Journal has been working on ways to
address this problem. RFID Connect, our
event-planning and social-media site, provides a cost-effective way for vendors to post
information about their products. Some vendors are beginning to take advantage of this
service, and end users are visiting the site to
request information. A systems integrator
recently inquired about ultrahigh-frequency
RFID bangles, saying if they provide adequate
read range he would order 300,000 units for a
customer. Other end users and systems integrators have inquired about the cost of rugged
tags, the read range of labels and whether
readers are compliant with radio emissions
regulations in Europe.
We also aim to inspire more productive
interaction between attendees at RFID Journal
LIVE!, our largest event, and exhibitors of RFID
products and services. We introduced a smartphone application that will let attendees highlight exhibitors on the exhibit hall map by the
products they offer or the industries they
serve. And we created a free product showcase
for exhibitors so attendees can quickly see
some of the products being offered. The large
structure has 108 panels that will feature
product photos and descriptions, along with
exhibitor logos and booth numbers.
Of course, RFID Journal can’t solve the visibility problem on its own. RFID vendors must
take the initiative to market their products
and increase brand awareness. Transparency
in the marketplace will fuel growth by
enabling more companies to deploy systems.
And that, in turn, will encourage still more
companies to adopt RFID. —M.R.
84%
of study
respondents
said brand is
important for
RFID purchasing
decisions.
Yet, only
35%
of end users
recognized the
top RFID brand.
11
RFID Journal LIVE!
is the place where
end users come
to hear how other
companies are
benefiting from
RFID today.
THIS YEAR’S EVENT FEATURES:
› More than 50 end-user case studies
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BLOOMINGDALE’S JOURNEY FROM RFID
CONCEPT TO ROLLOUT
ROGER V. BLAZEK
VP, Shortage Control,
Omni Channel
APR. 30
5:00 PM
INDUSTRY TRACKS
› Defense/Aviation
› Health Care/Pharmaceutical
› Manufacturing
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HOW-TO TRACKS
› RFID Deployment Strategies
› Supply Chain/Logistics
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USING RFID AND SOCIAL MEDIA
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ROBERT URWILER
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Vail Resorts
PRECONFERENCE SEMINARS
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HOW CARRIER MADE EXCELLENT
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BALAJI SURESH
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MAY 1
8:30 AM
› RFID Journal University
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› Security and Access Control
POST-CONFERENCE SEMINARS
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› Benchmarking UHF RFID Readers and Tags BP USES TRACK AND TRACE TO IMPROVE
OPERATIONS
BLAINE TOOKEY
Senior Technology Consultant, Chief
Technology Office, IT&S, BP
MAY 1
10:00 AM
DEMOS
RETAIL APPAREL AND SUPPLIER DEMOS
› Serializing, encoding and applying RFID tags
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LEARN HOW THESE INDUSTRY LEADERS ARE PUTTING RFID TO WORK
Todd Boyle
Martin Brunworth
Felipe Ivan Campos
Betsy J. Cohen
Carlo K. Nizam
Rick Lewis
Dr. Ravi Margasahayam
Fernando Ferreira Matos
Doug Harvel
Claude Lorda
Astrium
Thomas J. Pizzuot
Kevan MacKenzie
Mark Willer
Stacey Shulman
TJ Mannarino
William P. Coop
Chuck Blucher
Sumant Vashisth
Paul Pennington
Todd Frantz
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cover story
eliminating
16
waste
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
cover story
Businesses are adopting RFID to
identify and eradicate the inefficiencies
that impede growth and profits.
I L LU S T R AT I O N : I S TO C K P H OTO
by john edwards
carlo nizam is head of the value chain visibility and auto-ID
program for Airbus, one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers. He is also a waste-buster. And like many of his
counterparts in retail, health care and other industries,
Nizam has discovered that radio frequency identification is a
powerful waste-fighting tool.
“To tackle waste, you need to be able to measure it; you need
to know where it is,” Nizam says. “But that’s easier said than
done because, in reality, people have, more often than not,
little data or limited visibility of how their processes are performing, so they don’t necessarily know where the waste is.”
RFID provides the insight essential for spotting hidden
pockets of waste lurking inside supply chains, production
lines, inventories and other key areas. The technology also
helps companies squeeze out waste by automating existing
processes, so they run faster and more efficiently.
“If you want to really tackle waste, you really have to take
a big-picture approach, because one of the things people need
to realize is that waste doesn’t differentiate between company
boundaries,” Nizam says. “It flows across boundaries, and
across processes.” Airbus, which began using RFID in 2005,
has taken an enterprisewide approach to RFID, using the
technology in its supply chain, manufacturing, assembly and
in-service operations.
For manufacturers, waste in any form hampers agility, cuts
into profits and reduces a company’s ability to improve or
maintain its market position. RFID is helping manufacturers
trim several types of waste, says Michael Liard, RFID director
at VDC Research. “Most importantly, RFID technology allows
a manufacturer to reallocate resources or make sure that
processes are optimized,” he says.
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
Retailers often operate on microscopically thin margins,
so detecting and eradicating waste is essential to surviving in
ultracompetitive markets. Cutting waste is primarily a matter
of achieving and maintaining inventory visibility, says Justin
Patton, director of the University of Arkansas’ RFID Research
Center. “You might want to specifically reduce theft, or you
might want to specifically reduce spoilage on a particular
loading dock,” he says. “But always think of your plan in
terms of how the technology is going to help make your inventory more accurate and how that more accurate number
will affect everything else, such as ordering and forecasting.”
Facing near-runaway costs and increasingly stringent
regulatory compliance mandates, health-care organizations
have made finding ways to cut waste a top priority. For many
years, hospitals have defined waste primarily in terms of lost
physical assets, such as misplaced, misused or stolen equipment and supplies, says Mark Norris, president and CEO of
Ekahau, an RFID solutions provider for the health-care
industry. “Today,” he says, “that definition has expanded to
include time spent on unnecessary manual or duplicate
processes and procedures, time spent looking for lost items
and time away from patient care.”
Here, then, is how RFID is eliminating waste at Airbus,
Lemmi Fashion, Eastern Maine Medical Center and other
businesses.
MANUFACTURERS BOOST PRODUCTIVITY
RFID allows both automated and manual production lines
and maintenance facilities to operate at peak efficiency levels, by ensuring that materials and components always arrive
17
The RFID system can potentially
add up to 25 percent more
productive time to a worker’s
eight-hour shift.
—carlo nizam, airbus
at the right place at the exact moment they are
needed. RFID also helps manufacturers maximize workforce productivity by shifting
employees away from routine, repetitive production tasks that could be handled less
expensively and more efficiently by RFIDenabled automated systems. “RFID definitely
brings a higher level of automation previously
not seen in a manufacturing environment,”
Liard says.
In addition, manufacturers use RFID to
keep supply chains humming at optimal levels by feeding an array of highly accurate data
into the enterprise resource planning and data
warehouse systems that drive supply optimization systems. With RFID’s help, forecasting, master production scheduling and
distribution requirements planning systems
all are able to produce higher-quality reports—
based on accurate inventory and/or material
shipping data—that can help managers better
detect time- and money-burning bottlenecks.
One way RFID helps Airbus reduce waste is
RFID all but eliminated the
waste associated with
refulfilling incorrect shipments.
—götz pfeifferling, lemmi fashion
18
by giving workers faster access to essential
tools. At a U.K. plant that manufactures wing
assemblies for A400M military transports,
an RFID-based tool-management application
replaced a manual system, eliminating most
of the time workers once wasted standing in
line simply to check out tools from a toolstorage area and return them at the end of the
work shift. The RFID system can potentially
add up to 25 percent more productive time to a
worker’s eight-hour shift, Nizam notes. The
system also automatically records the number
of times each precision tool has been used,
enabling management to accurately identify
tools that are ready for recalibration or
maintenance.
Airbus is also cutting wasted time at its
Toulouse, France, assembly line, where RFIDtagged and tracked “logistics media units”—
containers of various shapes and sizes—will be
used to deliver components as needed to
workers on the new A350 jetliner’s final
assembly line. “We track when they leave the
warehouse, track where they are on the final
assembly line and then confirm delivery when
they’re delivered to the right place,” Nizam
says. The system will help ensure that production is never held up simply because a vital
component hasn’t yet arrived.
In addition, RFID helps Airbus work faster
and more efficiently by automating aircraft
inspection and configuration-management
processes. Airliners are delivered with seats
and life vests installed in exact accordance with
customer requirements. Just a couple of years
ago, the final cabin inspection was a largely
manual process, requiring clipboard-toting
workers to walk along aisles, bend down to
check serial numbers and write down the
information—ideally, without any mistakes,
Nizam says. “It used to take a person 14 hours
to do that on what we call a long-range aircraft,
which are our A330 and A340 families,” he says.
Now that Airbus has added RFID tags to the
seats and life vests, just one person carrying a
lightweight handheld reader can complete the
cabin inspection for an entire airliner in
approximately 26 minutes. The system automatically confirms the presence of each
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
cover story
required item, verifies its location and then
looks up critical data associated with the part,
such as its “birth record” and expiration date.
“This information can then be used to determine the aircraft configuration and also inservice later on, to prioritize maintenance
planning for items due for inspection, overhaul or replacement,” Nizam says.
Unlike Airbus, Lemmi Fashion, in Fritzlar,
Germany, doesn’t operate a series of massive
manufacturing plants. The children’s clothing
designer prefers to outsource production to
Asian contract manufacturers. Yet, Lemmi
still uses RFID to cut waste, relying on the
technology to automatically check incoming
shipments for correct quantities and styles.
Götz Pfeifferling, Lemmi’s CIO, says that
prior to adopting RFID, the firm often found significant discrepancies between the number and
types of garments that manufacturers claimed
they had shipped and the items that actually
arrived at the company’s distribution center,
“especially when it came to the sizes and
colors,” he says. “On a SKU basis, our data was
very, very rough in relation to the shipments.”
By requiring its manufacturers to tag their
shipments, Lemmi was able to eliminate a
tedious manual verification operation, reducing wasted time and allowing employees to
focus on more productive tasks. “We also implemented packing tables and readers at our
manufacturers, so when they packed the goods
MORE WASTE-BUSTING APPLICATIONS
RFID Journal’s annual conference and exhibition
will feature more than 50 end-user case studies,
including many that focus on eliminating waste.
Here are some highlights.
BLOOMINGDALE’S has been RFID-tagging items to improve inventory accuracy,
reducing overstocks and understocks. Roger V. Blazek, the company’s VP of shortage control for
omnichannel, will deliver a keynote address on the retailer’s RFID journey from concept to rollout.
AMERICAN APPAREL has RFID-enabled roughly 100 stores. Stacey Shulman, the
company’s CTO, will speak about how the clothing manufacturer and retailer uses RFID to improve
inventory accuracy and reduce shrinkage.
TAP PORTUGAL, the country’s national airline, uses RFID to track engine-overhaul components and tools. Fernando Matos, head of information technologies at TAP Maintenance and
Engineering, will discuss how the solution improves visibility into its parts and tools, and eliminates
the need to conduct time-wasting manual inventory searches.
I L LU S T R AT I O N : I S TO C K P H OTO
SPEEDY SERVICES developed an RFID-enabled onsite mobile equipment pod that provides workers with continuous access to tools, to help crews meet schedules. Glyn Matthews,
Speedy’s senior project manager, will explain how the solution eliminates waste for the tool-rental
company and its customers.
CELEBRATION HEALTH, a Florida Hospital facility, deployed a real-time location system to reduce the many miles nurses typically walk during a shift. Todd Frantz, associate CTF, will
detail how the solution improves efficiencies at its new patient tower.
To see the full agenda, visit RFID JOURNAL LIVE! 2013.
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
19
“If a retailer loses sales due to
an out-of-stock situation, that
must be considered waste.”
—joerg niederhuefner,
intelligent loss prevention
we would actually get a detailed inventory on
each carton,” Pfeifferling says. The approach
gave Lemmi a four-week heads-up on incoming shipments, allowing the firm to head off
any problems and better coordinate deliveries
to its retail customers.
At Lemmi’s warehouse, the tagged shipments eliminated a major source of wasted
time. “Previously, we mostly had to do manual
counting, then type the totals into a computer,” Pfeifferling says. “This process was
slow, and it was very easy to make mistakes.”
Accuracy rates under the manual system never
surpassed 85 percent, and may have actually
been worse, he notes.
The RFID system provides virtually perfect
accuracy. “It streamlined our receiving
process, making it much quicker to add items
to our warehouse,” Pfeifferling says. The technology also assured that Lemmi retailers
would always receive the exact garments they
had ordered, all but eliminating the waste associated with refulfilling incorrect shipments.
“With technology enabling the
process, you’re talking about
moving from a first-in, first-out
process to a first-expired,
first-out system.”
—justin patton, rfid research center
20
RETAILERS STAY COMPETITIVE
Comprehensive RFID-driven inventory visibility and management capabilities help
retailers maximize sales. “If a retailer loses
sales due to an out-of-stock situation, that
must be considered waste,” says Joerg Niederhuefner, director of business development for
Intelligent Loss Prevention, a company that
sells RFID-enabled merchandising systems.
“False data can also create overstocking,
which also must be defined as waste.”
Apparel retailers worldwide are employing
RFID to slash waste attributable to inventory
miscounts, stock shrinkage and other factors.
Swiss fashion retailer Charles Vögele was an
early adopter, deploying an RFID system in
2008 to track items from manufacture to its
stores. The solution quickly justified its cost
by generating a 70 percent or more time-savings when calculating store and warehouse
inventories, as well as a 7 percent increase in
the accuracy of picked orders in factories. It
has resulted in increased sales, due to fewer
out-of-stock items, and more accurate planning information.
In 2011, Valdac Group, a São Paulo-based
fashion retailer that operates more than 100
stores throughout Brazil, turned to RFID to
trim waste. For its Memove chain, the firm created an RFID solution designed to save time at
the distribution center and inside each store.
It improves shipment verification, because
employees know exactly what products, including which sizes and colors, are inside each
of the boxes they receive. The solution also
helps stock replenishments keep pace with
sales, which increases revenue and prevents
customer disappointment.
Jewelry retailers are also adopting RFID to
improve inventory management. In 2009,
Cleor, a French retail jewelry chain, began
deploying RFID because its sales staff was
spending more time on inventory than on
sales and customer service. Today, the solution
has been deployed at 50 retail locations. “The
solution’s greatest value has been in improved
accuracy,” says COO Aurélien Sénéchal. “It has
reduced errors in shipping and receiving.” An
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
cover story
inventory check that used to take several days
now takes only a few hours, he says.
The RFID system that Borsheims, a Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelry retailer in
Omaha, Neb., deployed in 2012 has already
paid for itself, says CFO Erin Limas. Tagging
and tracking high-value jewelry reduces the
amount of time required for inventory counts,
eliminates shrinkage and provides better control over store inventory.
Supermarkets and other grocery-oriented
merchants face a unique challenge among retailers: products with shelf lives that are measured in terms of days or weeks rather than
months or years. Food retailers have an opportunity to use cold-chain monitoring and other
types of RFID systems to ensure food quality
and prevent spoilage. “Produce and meat are
what generally draw people to stores and are
what makes a good grocery store or a bad
grocery store,” Patton says. “If you ask most
grocers what their problems are with waste
and loss, they’ll generally identify spoilage,
damage in the back room and then theft.”
Inventory insight and seamless control are
key to addressing all of these challenges,
Patton says. “With technology enabling the
process, you’re talking about moving from a
first-in, first-out process to a first-expired,
first-out system,” he notes. “Instead of just
making decisions based on when the truck
came and dropped this off, you’re now making
decisions based on which of these shipments
has the most time left before it spoils.”
For food merchants, waste reduction can
also be turned into a powerful tool for building market share. “If you’re using RFID or some
other type of supply-chain technology to
ensure that you’re getting better quality, or to
remove the bad-quality items, you’re potentially differentiating yourself from others in
the space,” Patton says.
HOSPITALS MEET HEALTH-CARE
CHALLENGES
Time is an asset all health-care organizations
strive to use more efficiently. “More time allows hospitals to elevate the patient experi-
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
ence, shift resources to innovative care-giving
models and more effectively allocate staff time
to impactful activities,” Ekahau’s Norris says.
While hospitals, clinics, emergency-care centers and long-term care facilities continue to
consider real-time location system (RTLS)
technology a way to help managers spot and
eliminate the waste that occurs when assets go
missing, new time-oriented applications are
also appearing. “RTLS technology helps automate health-care delivery, and this leads to
quicker feedback on procedures, admissions,
discharges, room availability and asset inventory,” he says.
Slashing wasted time equals saving money,
says Brenda Clements, manager of nursing
services at Eastern Maine Medical Center’s
Cancer Care department in Brewer, Maine.
“RTLS
technology
helps automate health-care
delivery, and this leads to
quicker feedback on procedures,
admissions, discharges, room
availability and asset inventory.”
—mark norris, ekahau
“Shuffling patients via paper is very inefficient, and there’s a good chance of losing that
piece of paper and creating long patient
delays,” she notes. The facility began using an
RTLS for patient and employee tracking in
2009, and Clements says process improvements followed quickly. “We are able to expedite patient flow, lean processes, and improve
patient and staff satisfaction,” she says. “Now,
we’re able to see where all our patients and
coworkers are at any given moment.”
An RTLS can generate reports that help
managers maintain close oversight over anything—or anyone—tagged within the hospital
environment. “We can see where bottlenecks
occur,” Clements says. “If I have complaints
that patients have been kept waiting for a long
period of time, I can track the patient flow—
21
cover story
where they waited, how much time they spent
there—and see if I can flush out process issues
that created the patient delays.” The system
has already saved the hospital time equivalent
to that of three full-time employees as well as
“miles of walking” for staff members,
Clements notes. “Step minimization equals
increased efficiency, dollar savings and more
time spent with patients,” she says.
The RTLS also helps the hospital cut waste
in other ways. “Maintaining multiple waiting
areas where patients can sit can be a waste,”
Clements adds. “Requiring extra resources to
facilitate patient flow is a waste; patient delays
that subsequently delay providers is a waste.”
Indeed, hospitals worldwide are deploying
RTLS solutions to better manage patient care.
England’s Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals
“Requiring extra resources
to facilitate patient flow is a
waste; patient delays that
subsequently delay providers is
a waste.”
—brenda clements,
eastern maine medical center
NHS Trust, for example, deployed an RTLS
solution to improve patient flow, as well as
manage assets and ensure hand-hygiene compliance. India’s Fortis Escorts Heart Institute is
using RFID to reduce wait times for the
roughly 300 outpatients that visit the medical
facility daily for testing. And at Malaysia’s Pantai Hospital Ipoh, which has a rapidly growing
local population and a chronic skilled labor
shortage, RFID automates routine tasks so
nurses have more time to focus on patients.
In the United States, health-care facility
waste and inefficiency can also negatively impact Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
The federal government’s Centers for Medicare
& Medicaid Services agency is now basing reimbursements partially on patient satisfaction,
Clements says. “If we can be lean, and we can be
22
efficient, and we can get our patients through
services in a timely fashion, minimizing their
wait time, they’re going to be happier,” she says.
NO OPPORTUNITY WASTED
Manufacturers like Lemmi have succeeded in
cutting waste by focusing on the processes that
generate the most waste, Liard says. “Businesses
really need to evaluate what their processes are,
what costs are tied to these processes and how
an automatic identification technology such as
RFID can help alleviate some of these pain
points,” he explains. “It starts with a review of
one’s processes, and then moves to assets and
then to people—they’re all intertwined within
a manufacturing environment.”
Retailers, regardless of the market they
serve, can build a waste-busting RFID system
to achieve visibility and control, Niederhuefner
says. “Make sure you have a good understanding of all the positive impacts RFID can have on
your business model, but prioritize which
segments of your business would benefit
most from RFID deployment,” he says. “Define
which level is most important and start there.”
RTLS is becoming the go-to solution for
health-care business intelligence, “providing
insight and analysis on what works and what
doesn’t, giving hospitals the information they
need to make smart decisions in areas of
staffing, resource planning, patient workflow
and process improvement,” Norris says. Rich
RTLS-generated data helps health-care organizations better understand how to reduce costs
and drive more revenue. “Underutilization of
time and resources remains one of the healthcare industry’s biggest challenges,” he says,
“and RTLS can help the health-care industry address this challenge with location awareness.”
Airbus’ Nizam offers one last thought on
eliminating waste. “There’s an old saying: The
bolt is only tightened on the last turn, and
everything else is just movement,” he says.
“There are many things we’re doing to try to
minimize all that movement inside the company. The use of RFID is helping us focus and
make sure we’re only doing the things that
need to be done.”
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
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vertical focus: energy
Fuel RFID Deployments
24
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
Oil and gas companies are adopting radio
frequency identification technology to better
manage assets and inventory, improve drilling
and maintenance operations, and protect
workers in dangerous environments. But
industry experts say they’re missing out on
a powerful application. by jennifer zaino
Fracking—short For hydraulic fracturing, which uses water pressure to create fractures in rock through which to extract natural gas and oil—has become a hot-button issue,
as technology advances make recovering previously unreachable natural gas reserves
economically feasible. Proponents argue for its role in boosting energy independence
while opponents cite water contamination and other environmental concerns.
That’s a debate for other venues. But what can’t be disputed is the value RFID can bring
to fracking operations. In 2011, for example, GreenHunter Water, a Grapevine, Texas,
provider of water-management solutions and services to oil and gas companies, began
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
25
Cameron, a provider of flow
equipment products,
systems and services to
worldwide oil, gas and
process industries, has been
RFID-tagging valves and
rental equipment for U.S.
and Canadian hydraulic
fracturing companies, to
improve asset tracking and
inventory management.
26
installing its RFID-based wellhead-management system at six oil-drill sites in West
Virginia. The solution lets the company track
wastewater pumped out of temporary storage
tanks and provide data showing it was deposited in authorized waste wells.
For the past year or so, Cameron, a provider
of flow equipment products, systems and services to worldwide oil, gas and process industries, has been RFID-tagging valves and rental
equipment for U.S. and Canadian hydraulic
fracturing companies, to improve asset tracking and inventory management. Cameron links
the unique serial number on each passive ultrahigh-frequency EPC Gen 2 tag to information
about the part stored in its database. More than
10,000 pieces of equipment have been tagged,
says Daniel Baxter, a senior technology and
development research engineer at the firm.
Cameron moved fast to RFID-enable its 22
facilities that rent fracking equipment, be-
cause parts are not always returned to the
location from which they were shipped. It was
important to have all facilities go live as soon
as possible, Baxter says, so everyone contributes to and can benefit from more accurate
data. The RFID solution provides visibility into
what equipment has been shipped to and returned from customers, and identifies items
that are being repaired.
“Cameron sees great value and potential in
RFID technology,” Baxter says. The company
can speed up billing and bring greater efficiency to other business processes, including
turning around customer order cycle time, he
says, adding that knowing the status of equipment is key to providing better service.
Improving asset tracking and inventory
management is a major driver of RFID in the
energy sector. A Louisiana service company
became interested in RFID when it discovered
that the pipes it had rented from another
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
vertical focus: energy
source to complete a customer’s requirements
were actually its own property. Only physical
markings on the pipes gave away the truth,
says Patrick King, founder of RFID rugged tag
provider and consulting company Technologies ROI (TROI), and a standards and technology advisor to the Oil and Gas RFID Solutions
Group (OGR), a consortium of experts working
to promote RFID adoption in the energy sector.
“When the boat out of Houma, Louisiana, goes
out to an offshore wellhead and picks up parts
for service, resurfacing or retooling, all the
parts go on to that one boat barge,” King says.
“It comes in and someone does sorting, and
the process is not very good. If 10 parts look the
same, they end up in one pile, even if they’re
owned by three different companies. So you
might or might not get your parts back.”
Managing assets in remote regions is particularly challenging. “It’s very costly to send
vessels to offshore oil rigs, so they need to
make sure they’re taking everything that needs
to leave—that’s a very laborious process to try
to do manually,” says Moses Chang, sales manager at RFID tag manufacturer Xerafy, which is
working with one of the largest oil and gas logistics companies in the world on an effort to
tag every production supply before it goes on
board the vessels that service offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico and other regions.
Companies, for example, hoist slings and
other pieces of equipment for lifting heavy
gear into large containers, but counting them
by hand is difficult, if not impossible, Chang
says. “If you leave out one component, like one
sling, or even one little tool, that can be a huge
amount of downtime,” he says. Downtime for
offshore rig operations can run into the
millions of dollars, and heading it off or
recovering from it by sending out a helicopter
with forgotten supplies can cost tens of
thousands of dollars.
Oil and gas companies are also using RFID
to improve drilling and maintenance operations, thanks to technology advances that
make it possible to read tags on metal and in
harsh environments (see BP Refines Maintenance Operations). In addition, they are im-
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
plementing RFID-based real-time safety solutions to monitor employees in dangerous
workplace environments. But most RFID deployments in the energy sector are closed-loop
applications. The holy grail is to have RFID
used across the supply chain—from the manufacturing site, where it can be attached to
equipment being produced, to the wellhead,
where it can be used in operations, King says.
“It’s very costly
to send vessels
to offshore oil
rigs, so they
Technology That’s Up to the Job
To monitor valves and other equipment used need to make
in fracking, Cameron needed metal-friendly sure they’re
tags that could survive stress and harsh envitaking everyronments, so they would be readable when the
assets were returned to its facilities. “There are thing that
all sorts of harsh chemicals that tags are ex- needs to
posed to, so the tags and attachment mechanisms have to hold up” on multiple fronts, leave—that’s a
Baxter says. “UHF tag technology has advanced very laborious
so far recently and become so much more roprocess to try to
bust with companies like Xerafy, Omni-ID and
Confidex. The tags have become so much more do manually.”
reliable in harsh environments, and offer improved performance when reading them on
metal. It’s become a good option for us. The
technology has gotten to the point where
Cameron is confident using these tags, which
have a high survival rate.”
The advancements in UHF technology also
can facilitate oil and gas drilling operations
and other processes that take place in the field,
says Konrad Konarski, co-founder of the OGR.
Workers can read RFID-tagged pipes to ensure
the right pipes are going into a hole in the right
sequence, for example, or that a pipe has been
inspected following its use in multiple drilling
cycles. Identifying drill pipes had its start with
low-frequency RFID technology, he says. It
provides adequate reliability but is hampered
by a short read range that isn’t best suited to
work in complex drill rig environments.
While the OGR promotes passive UHF EPC
Gen 2 technology as a standard for asset management, low-frequency RFID continues to
play a role. Last summer, for example, global
oil and gas firm Statoil began deploying an LF
—moses chang, xerafy
27
Workers can read RFIDtagged pipes to ensure the
right pipes are going into a
hole in the right sequence,
or that a pipe has been
inspected following its use
in multiple drilling cycles.
RFID solution from Trac ID Systems at offshore
oil wells to monitor the lifespan of drill pipes.
Each time a pipe is lowered into and then
raised out of the well, its tag ID number, along
with the time and date, are automatically
recorded. Tracking the pipes with fixed and
handheld readers provides more accurate data
than recording the information manually, and
it also minimizes the time the rig crew must
spend on the main deck, where they are
exposed to various hazards.
Safety Takes a Front Seat
When it comes to the RFID projects being implemented around the world, personnel safety
is right up there with asset-management solutions, says OGR co-founder Sam Falsafi. All five
of the major oil companies—BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon and Shell—have
major projects using RFID for personnel safety,
he says. Some have been in place a few years,
and at least one is tracking more than 4,000
people on a remote offshore platform.
Other energy firms are also deploying personnel safety solutions. Mexican oil-industry
maintenance and transportation company
Cotemar uses an RFID solution from AeroScout
to automatically monitor employees, and the
services they use, on four offshore platforms
28
that serve as their living quarters while they
work on oil rigs in the Gulf. This helps the
company locate employees in the event of an
emergency, and to provide food and laundry
supplies more efficiently.
Agip Kazakhstan North Caspian Operating
Co., a subsidiary of Italian oil and gas giant Eni,
is deploying an RFID personnel safety solution
in conjunction with the construction of a new
complex and drilling site in the North Caspian
Sea, off the coast of Kazakhstan. The oil field is
expected to produce extremely toxic and flammable gas. Agip plans to monitor up to 1,000
staff members, so in an emergency it can determine which employees have reported to their
assigned mustering stations as well as the locations of those who have not, and it can issue
alerts in the right areas if a rescue is in order.
RFID-based personnel safety solutions
provide real-time visibility into worker
locations, to help prevent accidents and enable
companies to respond should an incident
occur. They can help keep accidents at bay
by, for example, triggering alarms when
nonauthorized contractors enter restricted
work zones or notifying managers if noncertified operators near heavy machinery. “There
have been incidents already where RFID technology has helped prevent accidents,” Falsafi
says, though the companies are careful about
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
vertical focus: energy
publicizing such events.
In an emergency, “the company can provide
a better message publicly—explaining when the
event took place, how many people were evacuated, that there are still people here in a certain
sector, and so on,” Falsafi says. “That’s a much,
much more powerful statement than just
saying we know something took place, and we
don’t know where people are in the building or
the facility, but we are trying to get them out.”
Most personnel safety solutions consist of
a combination of real-time location systems
based on ultra-wideband, ZigBee or Wi-Fi
active RFID and GPS capabilities. “The unpredictable movement of persons and the complex petrochemical environments require,
most of the time, a solution based on active
RFID infrastructure,” Falsafi says. Typically, he
explains, workers are equipped with RFIDenabled ID badges; some also have panic buttons or embedded auxiliary sensors that could
detect a fall to the ground or off a harness.
RFID technology allows us to effectively
track people in an environment where GPS
alone can’t track people, Konarski says. While
GPS on its own is sometimes suited to the task,
“in a facility like a refinery, there is so much
metal obstruction, and when you do have a GPS
signal, it can be very diluted,” he says. “GPS generally doesn’t really let you track well in 3-D, so
if a person is up on a stairwell, it’s not easy to
track him using a simple GPS receiver.” That
isn’t helpful for localizing emergency response
teams to where individuals are in trouble.
In addition to monitoring workers in dangerous environments, RFID can automate
safety inspections. Omni-ID, for example, is
working with a customer that sends ships back
and forth to offshore rigs, says Andre Coté, the
firm’s SVP of business development. A strict
inspection program on each ship requires not
only ensuring the presence of fire extinguishers but also stress-testing on-ship components
and parts of the ship itself, such as a doorway
to ensure its hinges and locks work properly.
With durable passive UHF tags attached to the
appropriate locations and components on the
ship, personnel need only ping the tag with a
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
handheld reader to access complete instructions for what testing to do at each location.
“And once they complete the tests, there’s a full
electronic record to show compliance with
safety regulations for that ship,” Coté says. The
project is going live now across seven or eight
ships, with some 10,000 tags per ship.
Connecting the Energy Dots
In the near future, more U.S. oil and gas
companies may turn to RFID to comply with
federal regulations. “The U.S. government is
coming up with some very defined and stringent regulations for all the oil companies and
producers in the U.S.,” says Layne Tucker,
founder of the EchoRFID solution for pipeline
integrity management. “It’s changing the way
[the government is] going to regulate them,
and how the oil companies have to keep track
of their assets, and any changes they make in
those assets over a 25- to 35-year life cycle,
whether in an aboveground facility or a
belowground pipeline.”
The EchoRFID solution should be in use in
the next few months, though the company is
not disclosing customers now. Manufacturers
or the oil companies constructing the
pipelines can tag the equipment with OmniID’s passive UHF Ultra on-metal tag. The tag
was selected for its durability and read distance (more than 100 feet), Coté says. A cloud
database will store information about each
tagged piece every time its unique serial number is read—when the piece is transported to a
construction site and when it’s deployed as
part of a pipeline project, including being
buried deep within the ground. “When the
pipe needs to be dug up in the future, the tag
can be read and identified even before exposing the pipe,” he says. As pieces of a pipeline
deteriorate, new tagged parts can be put in
their place; any database lookups would show
the old tags are out of service and the new tags
that have replaced them.
Pictures, voice and video also could be attached to the unique tag’s information, and
GPS technology would record where the asset
“All five of the
major oil
companies—BP,
ConocoPhillips,
Chevron, Exxon
and Shell—have
major projects
using RFID for
personnel safety.
—sam falsafi, oil and gas
rfid solutions group
29
vertical focus: energy
The EchoRFID solution for
pipeline integrity management is designed to help oil
companies keep track of
their assets, and any
changes they make in those
assets over a 25- to 35-year
life cycle, whether in an
aboveground facility or a
belowground pipeline.
30
has been placed. “You would be able to recall
any changes for the full life cycle of that asset
to those who need it out in the field,” Tucker
says. “You can’t see the buried asset anymore,
but we would be able to find any component a
tag was on and reaffirm through GPS that that
is the correct tag, you are at the spot you think
you were, and this tag holds this information
that was taken during construction, whether
that was last week or five years ago,” he says.
“An engineer through his computer, without
traveling to the field, can actually confirm the
type of valve that’s there, or people in the field
can shoot the tag to see when and where the
equipment was last serviced.”
New federal guidelines could encourage
more energy suppliers to RFID-tag equipment.
For now, most RFID deployments in the energy
industry tend to be of a closed-loop or otherwise isolated nature. That’s something many
parties would like to see change. There is still
little agreement on data, material and referential standards to promote interoperability and
usefulness, both within and across corporate
borders, TROI’s King says. “Unlike the auto
industry, where at least there is an attempt by
competitors to come together and drive common standards, the energy community does
not really do that,” he observes. “It is far more
competitive.”
“Tag specifications need to address the environmental and functional requirements of
the entire life cycle of the product [the tag] is
attached to,” Konarski says. “But when efforts
aren’t thought of in an end-to-end way from
the start, that’s unlikely to happen.
“If you build a closed-loop system, you are
isolating other partners from using RFID and it
doesn’t become as pervasive as it should,”
Konarski says. Consider, he suggests, the example of a large oil company whose warehouse
group sponsors an RFID project to solve problems such as shrinkage or to receive inventory
faster. The company selects RFID tags and technology to address its particular requirements.
The tags may accompany parts out to the field,
but the odds are they won’t support requirements that would make them useful there.
“Even if someone else in the supply chain
does decide to use RFID technology, if the original project did not take into account the types
of information this trading partner would like
to see in the tag memory, or the physical environment of the piece of equipment while in
the hands of this partner, the tag may not work
or simply will not provide [the secondary user]
with any value,” Konarski says. “Planning
across different organizational units or different companies is key to leveraging the true
value of RFID.”
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
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product developments
COMING
clean
About RFID Laundry Systems
RFID-tagging and tracking uniforms and linens for
more than 15 years to identify customers’ items,
which must be sorted, cleaned, packaged and
loaded on the correct truck for delivery. More
recently, casinos, fitness clubs, hospitals, hotels,
theme parks and other organizations have begun
using RFID to track laundry items, to improve asset
visibility and reduce the number of stolen towels.
“Laundry tracking manually is very labor-intensive, because keeping detailed records requires that
different types of laundry items must be separated,
counted, recorded on paper and then later entered
into a computer,” says Jeff Welles, VP of RFID
laundry solution provider InvoTech Systems. “RFID
automatically identifies, counts and records the
items without even separating or sorting.”
While laundry-tracking systems have been in use
for a long time, recent advancements in the tech-
32
nology have led to price drops and increased performance, says Michael Liard, RFID director at VDC
Research. Low-frequency and high-frequency solutions dominated the market in the early days, he
says. Passive ultrahigh-frequency solutions able to
withstand washing conditions have entered the
market as lower-cost alternatives. In general, he
adds, these systems cost approximately 20 percent
less than the older offerings.
UHF RFID tags designed to withstand commer-
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES | ISTOCKPHOTO
CommerCial laundry companies have been
cial laundry processes first became available in
2010, Welles says. “These tags each contain a
unique ID number and are attached to each
uniform or linen item to identify specific
inventory items,” he explains. “The UHF RFID
laundry tags allow inventory items to be
processed from a much farther distance than
the RFID laundry tags that were previously
available.” The greater reading distance allows
for entire laundry carts of uniforms or linens
to be processed and the content recorded
instantly, he adds.
Some companies hire a systems integrator
to develop a laundry-tracking system; the in-
to hotels and entertainment venues, the
demand for tracking clothing and linens is
increasing in many markets for a variety of
reasons.” Hospitals need to track linens and
materials not only entering and exiting facilities, but in many cases from floor to floor and
room to room, Dalton says. Hotels need to
ensure linens are available for guests. And with
the rising cost of cotton, loss of items can have
a significant impact on a hotel’s bottom line.
“Laundry tags can also be used to track cleaning equipment, such as textile mops and broom
heads, which are laundered and sterilized,”
says Richard Aufreiter, director of product man-
Technology advancements, lower costs
and complete solutions are among the
reasons to consider automating the
tracking of linens, towels and uniforms.
tegrator then purchases laundry tags from an
RFID provider. Other firms design their own
RFID laundry solutions. Disney, for instance,
purchased passive UHF tags from Fujitsu
Frontech North America and readers from
ThingMagic, and created RFID software that
integrates with its existing Garment Utilization System.
During the past few years, providers have developed complete laundry solutions, which include readers, tags and software—an option that
makes sense, Liard says. In 2011, for example,
Fallsview Casino Resort, in Niagara Falls,
Canada, adopted InvoTech’s GIMS Uniform System. Still, employees needed to sew the tags
into tens of thousands of employee uniforms.
Analysts and solution providers expect continued growth in the RFID laundry market.
“There is an explosion in usages for washable
RFID tags,” says Dan Dalton, director of new
products development at Fujitsu Frontech
North America. “From hospitals and health care
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
agement, identification technologies, at HID
Global. “Textiles of all types, including napkins
and tablecloths, are tracked for accountability,
efficiency and traceability purposes.”
While the RFID laundry sector is growing,
Liard says, companies in the industry face the
ongoing challenge of communicating the
business benefits of RFID for laundry-related
applications. “Education is still a challenge,
and with the new UHF solutions as part of the
equation, customers now have more of a
choice,” he says. “They need to understand
things like total cost ownership and ROI.”
RFID LAUNDRY TAGS
Companies that want to build their own laundry-tracking systems or invest in additional
tags to expand monitoring capabilities have
several options; the table on page 35 provides
information on some leading RFID laundry tag
providers. All the RFID laundry tags are
rugged—that is, they can withstand hundreds
(Top left) HID Global’s Slim Flex
Laundry Tag; (above) William
Frick & Company’s RFID Wire
Laundy Tag.
33
product developments
Fujitsu’s WT-A521 and WT-A522
tags are washable and nonmetallic, so they can can be
used in hospitals with MRI
rooms where large magnetic
fields are present.
Solution
providers say
the laundry
tags usually
outlive the
uniforms and
other linens
they track.
34
of industrial washings at high temperatures
with bleach and other chemicals, as well as
repeated ironings. Solution providers say the
laundry tags usually outlive the uniforms and
other linens they track.
Industrial laundry typically is not dried primarily with air but with a water-extraction
press. “Although using an extraction press expedites the drying process, it places additional
stress on the laundry and the tag’s antenna,”
HID Global’s Aufreiter says. “Therefore, HID
tags are tested up to 70 bar pressure (½-ton per
square inch) and 500 twist tests of 180 degrees
for the flexible antenna to survive repeatedly
in modern water-extraction presses.”
The tags differ when it comes to size, form
factor and read range. Fujitsu’s WT-A521 and
WT-A522 tags, for example, measure 55 millimeters by 10 millimeters (2 inches by 0.4
inch), so they can be inserted easily into the
seam of a sheet or towel, Dalton says. “Because
of the ultrasoft exterior, the tag can be inserted
into clothing seams, linings or pockets and is
virtually unnoticeable to the wearer,” he says.
Also, because of its nonmetallic design, the tag
can be used in hospitals with MRI rooms where
large magnetic fields are present, he adds.
Some tags offer security features, such as
the ability to protect customer data on tags.
“We can lock down as much or as little data as
the client needs,” says Brent Howell, business
development manager at William Frick & Co.,
which provides the RFID Wire Laundry Tag and
Silicone RFID Laundry Tag.
The EPC and user memory can be locked
or password-protected to prevent someone
from changing data on tags, Howell says.
“Additionally, each chip comes with its own
unique serial number that cannot be changed,”
he says. “If a user combines chip ID along with
[the user’s] own unique EPC code, this allows
for additional security.”
RFID LAUNDRY SOLUTIONS
InvoTech Systems, RFID Laundry Consultant
and Towel Tracker are among the RFID
providers that offer complete laundry solutions, including tags, readers and software (see
vendor table on page 37). With a turnkey system, the hardware and software components
work together, and the solution typically includes installation and training, and, in some
cases, software updates and support services.
InvoTech offers GIMS systems to manage
linens, uniforms, laundry (linens and uniforms) and multiproperty (for clients with
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
more than one site). The company says it has
nearly 500 customers in 20 countries worldwide, including casinos, hospitals, hotels,
laundries, medical centers, stadiums and
theme parks. All the UHF systems automatically track and record laundry activity, and
manage inventory, repairs and billing. A
“restricted item control” feature can be deployed at employee exits to catch individuals
trying to leave the property with uniforms,
Welles says, or it can be used at pools or water
parks to prevent guests from stealing towels.
The implementation time for a laundry system can take as little as one day or as long as a
month, he says, depending on what the customer is looking to do. “Cost varies tremendously depending on the size of the operation,”
Welles says. InvoTech provides custom pricing
proposals and a return-on-investment analysis, he adds.
RFID Laundry Consultant’s Simple Sort was
Simple Sort ships sewing
machines to customers to
help in the tagging process.
developed with help from RFID company Datamars. The HF system is designed for industrial
laundry and cleaning companies, specialized
laundry facilities, such as those that handle
clean-room uniforms, and hotels, says Scott
Meyer, the firm’s owner and product engineer.
The system features a “cube” that automatically sorts floor mats and uniforms, reducing
SOME LEADING PROVIDERS OF RFID LAUNDRY TAGS
COMPANY
Fujitsu Frontech North
America
TAGS
FREQUENCY
INDUSTRY
SERVED
WT-A521 and WTA522 Tags
Ultrahigh-frequency
Laundry service
providers
WT-A521 is a special-order tag with a
permanently locked EPC ID number for
security; WT-A522 is a standard global tag
with a password-locked EPC code
Gen 2 Laundry Tag
Ultrahigh-frequency
Industrial laundries
and hotels
Meets the extreme demands of rotary
ironing; can be fixed to any fabric using a
heat-sealing machine
Laundry Tag HF
High-frequency
Commercial
laundries
Guaranteed minimum lifetime of 200
washing cycles; available in 15 mm
diameter; thickness is always 2.4 mm so
tags can be integrated easily into clothes
Logi Tag, Logi
Button Tag, SlimFlex
Laundry Tag
High-frequency,
ultrahigh-frequency
Commercial
laundries, hospitals,
hotels and uniform
companies
Tags can be used to track mops and other
cleaning equipment that must be
laundered and sterilized; also can track
surgical sponges and other medical
reusable assets to verify cleaning and
sterilization processess
RFID Wire Laundry
Tag and Silicone
RFID Laundry Tag
Ultrahigh-frequency
Hospitality and
garment industries,
hospitals and
nursing homes
The EPC and user memory can be
password protected or locked for
security; tags can be customized to meet
end users’ needs
www.fujitsu.com/us
GAO RFID
www.gaorfid.com
IdTronic
idtronic-group.com/en
HID Global
www.hidglobal.com
William Frick & Co.
www.fricknet.com
FEATURES
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
35
product developments
Towel Tracker’s solution is
designed for fitness clubs
and hotels, which lose
millions of dollars in stolen
towels every year.
Many companies
see the initial
inventory
tagging as a
challenge.
36
errors and labor. It also alerts the operator to
any special requests, such as repairs needed or
the fact that a replacement item has been sent
to the customer.
The cost of Simple Sort starts at $25,000, including software, one reader station, installation, training and some tags, Meyer says.
Customers pay more for additional tags, onsite training and programming modifications.
“Each system is customized for each customer,” he says.
Towel Tracker’s solution is designed for fitness clubs and hotels, which lose millions of
dollars in stolen towels every year, according
to CEO Steven Molewyk. An introductory version includes a towel-dispensing unit, a towelreturn unit, RFID-tagged towels, two rolling
carts for dispensing clean towels, and two
rolling laundry bins for dirty towels. Towel
Tracker costs approximately $30,000. “Our
clients have seen ROIs between 10 weeks and
five months,” Molewyk says. “This is due to
lower towel theft, reduced laundry expenses,
and the ability to charge patrons the
purchase price for stolen towels.”
When a guest swipes his or her fitness-club
membership card or hotel key card through a
card reader, a cabinet door opens automatically, allowing the user to remove as many
towels as needed. Then, the system performs
a tag scan and determines the exact number of
towels taken. “Towel Tracker’s computer system automatically assigns those towels to your
account,” Molewyk says, “It’s like checking out
books from a library.”
Used towels are placed in the Towel Tracker’s
return unit, which scans the RFID tags and
automatically removes those towels from the
guest’s account. Managers can pull up a realtime list showing guests’ names, the number of
unreturned towels, and the date and time the
towels were checked out. The system can be
set to automatically generate polite e-mail reminders asking patrons to return the missing
towels or face potential replacement fees.
People use significantly fewer towels when
they’re responsible for returning them,
Molewyk says, which means fewer towels to
wash. Laundering costs about eight cents per
towel, he says, and the savings can add up
quickly.
CLEANING UP
Many companies see the initial inventory tagging as a challenge. If a company is ordering
new uniforms and linens, InvoTech sends the
laundry tags to suppliers to be sewn in during
the manufacturing process. For existing uniforms and linens, the company provides the
laundry tags pre-inserted in fabric pouches,
which can be sewn into the uniforms and
linens, he says. Another option is tags that can
be heat-sealed to uniforms and linens; the
company offers a heat-seal machine. Simple Sort’s Meyer says he has shipped machines to customers to help in the tagging
process. “Most every company ends up buying
its own, because of the need to tag existing
stockroom inventory,” he says. “A typical company will have a stockroom that is 15 percent of
the active inventory. So if it converts 100,000
active garments, it will need between 10,000 to
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
20,000 tags for the stockroom. It is more costeffective to add the tags only when they are put
into service…. This same machine can be used
for sewing on name and company emblems.”
Domestic linen mills “have a huge opportunity to provide value by tagging towels at the
mill and shipping them directly to customers’
sites,” Towel Tracker’s Molewyk says. “I believe
only domestic mills can excel at this lean
supply model. Unfortunately, nobody, to my
knowledge, has adopted this model yet.”
The laundry tracking market “is focusing
much of its attention on UHF RFID technology
and the adoption rate is extremely fast,” Welles
says. “However, UHF RFID laundry tags have
only been available a few years, so only a very
small percentage of qualified businesses have
implemented systems to date.”
Adoption rates will continue to vary depending on the application, Dalton says. “Several years ago, washable UHF RFID adoption
InvoTech’s GIMS systems
automatically track and record
laundry activity, and manage
inventory, repairs and billing.
was limited to higher-priced uniforms and
costumes,” he says. “Recently, however, Fujitsu
has seen an increase in adoption rates in the
hospitality and health-care segments. We
expect this rapid adoption rate to continue
into the future, as the cost of linens and
clothing continues to rise and the cost of tags
continues to fall.”
SOME LEADING PROVIDERS OF RFID LAUNDRY SOLUTIONS
COMPANY
InvoTech Systems
www.invotech.com
RFID Laundry Consultant
SOLUTION
SOFTWARE
INDUSTRY
SERVED
FEATURES
GIMS laundry,
linen, uniform
and
multiproperty
systems
Impinj readers,
Motorola Solutions antennas
and handheld
readers, Fujitsu
Frontech
passive EPC
Gen 2 RFID tags
GIMS software
and GIMS
mobile
inventory
software
Casinos,
hospitals,
hotels,
stadiums and
theme parks
Extensive reporting capabilities;
password protection to secure
information; portable reader identifies
items without hand sorting
Simple Sort
Datamars RFID
readers and
antennas, HF
LaundryChip
RFID tags
RFID Laundry
Consultant
software
Industrial
laundry
companies
Software tracks when and how often
items are laundered; the “cube” feature
streamlines sorting, reducing labor and
errors
Towel Tracker
Impinj readers,
Fuijtsu WTA522 UHF RFID
tags
Towel Tracker
software
Fitness clubs
and hotels
Solution includes a towel-dispensing
unit, towel-return unit, RFID-tagged
towels, two rolling carts for dispensing
clean towels and two rolling laundry
bins for dirty towels; automatically
assigns towels to a user’s account and
can be set to generate e-mail reminders
asking patrons to return missing towels
by a certain time and date
www.laundrytechnology.com
Towel Tracker
HARDWARE
www.toweltracker.com
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
37
inside the labs
Checking Services
A new GS1 standard will make it cost-efficient for retail pharmacies and
distributors to verify e-pedigree data.
When counterfeit drugs
infiltrate a pharmaceutical
supply chain, they can
endanger the safety of
patients and damage the
reputations of legitimate
manufacturers. For several
years now, identifying pallets, cases and individual
packages of medicine with unique Electronic
Product Code numbers (via RFID or 2-D bar
codes) and tracking them from manufacture
through distribution and on to retail pharmacies has been promoted as a way to make the
supply chain safer and more secure.
Several pilots have demonstrated that the
hardware, software and network standards,
such as EPC Information Services (EPCIS) for
sharing serialized event data securely in nearreal time, can verify chain of custody. The
EPCIS standard provides a way to capture and
share physical event data—each time an EPC
tag is read as it moves through the supply
chain, for example. Information regarding
changes of containment, such as when items
are packed into cases and bound to pallets, can
also be recorded as EPCIS event data.
But one hurdle has remained. Given the
large volumes of pharmaceutical packages in
circulation, this solution would put a huge
burden on companies that must check their
shipments. In my previous column, A New Approach to Pharmaceutical E-Pedigrees, I introduced the concept of “Checking Services,” a
way to handle serialized data verification by
automating the process or outsourcing it to an
accredited checking operator.
Since October 2012, the Cambridge Auto-ID
Lab has been actively working on the design of
Checking Services within a new GS1 technical
work group. We view Checking Services as a
new component within the GS1 EPC network
38
architecture. The goal is to standardize the interfaces, to ensure interoperability and develop robust accreditation requirements. That
will let companies have a choice of providers
and give them the confidence that the checks
will be performed consistently and correctly.
We are just beginning to tackle the technical
part of the standardizing work, and we expect
more solution providers will become involved
in the near future. Participation is important
because technology providers will likely offer
the service; just as there are multiple providers of EPCIS repositories,
there will be many providers of
Checking Services. Their prototypes
must be well aligned with the direction of the standard and ready to
meet expected legislation deadlines
for electronic pedigrees.
Checking Services will be able to
automatically gather EPCIS event
data, then perform a number of procedures on the data to identify any
gaps or inconsistencies. Companies
will be able to receive summary
reports of the results before they
receive the physical goods, enabling
them to decide which to accept and
which to quarantine for further investigation,
without slowing the receiving process.
This work is initially intended to support
the U.S. pharmaceutical sector, which will
likely need to comply with e-pedigree legislation in 2015. But Checking Services will provide a flexible framework to allow multiple
checks to be selected and configured, including those which might be defined in the future
in response to traceability legislation in other
sectors or regions.
Mark Harrison is director of the Cambridge AutoID Lab.
ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCKPHOTO | RFID JOURNAL
By Mark Harrison
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
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software savvy
Document Your Software
Deployment Design
Every RFID project needs a blueprint that details
software components, interfaces and other issues.
ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCKPHOTO
By Ken Traub
Your rFID project has
been green-lighted. You
know where you’re going
to deploy the technology
and what benefits you
hope to achieve. The next
step is for your systems
integrator or in-house
development team to create a solid design document. It’s as essential to
your project as a blueprint is to a new home
construction. Often these documents focus on
the hardware. But to ensure your company will
gain from the RFID data your new system collects, the design document must also address
the following software issues.
Decide what data will be programmed
into the tags. Some tags carry just a unique
identifier, while others include a section for
user memory that can be programmed with
passwords or store data about tag reads for
asset tracking, maintenance records or other
uses. The identifier could be a random code
programmed by the tag manufacturer or a
standard, such as an airline industry baggage
code, library item identifier or Electronic
Product Code. If it’s an EPC, will you use a
Serialized Global Trade Item Number (SGTIN),
Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI) or
another variation? If you are encoding the
tags yourself, the design should include a
software component that assigns unique IDs
and tracks available numbers in a database.
Keep track of all software components
with a block diagram. The block diagram
should include all components at the business level, such as enterprise resource planning, warehouse management and inventory
systems, as well as reporting dashboards. Also
include any components deployed in the
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
field, such as middleware and software
embedded in mobile and fixed readers.
Define each interface between the block
diagram components. This will ensure you
are collecting all the data needed to support
your business goals. Make sure these interfaces can support changes as your business
evolves. Can data elements be added without
disrupting operations? Each interface should
be extensible via a documented mechanism.
Also be sure the data flowing in each part of
the block diagram is appropriate for that layer.
Close to the readers, the data may be low-level
and designed to exploit a particular tag hardware feature or reader command. Closer to
the enterprise applications, the information
should become more independent of the
data-capture technology. A good test is to ask
if a change in data-capture technology would
imply a big change to the information at the
enterprise level. If so, it’s a sign that the software design is not layered properly.
Consider standards. They can make your
design more resilient to changes in requirements and allow you to choose hardware and
software from different vendors. Relevant
standards include the Low Level Reader
Protocol (LLRP) to talk to your readers,
Application Level Events (ALE) to bridge
readers to data-capture business logic, and
EPC Information Services (EPCIS) to bring
events to the enterprise in a technology-independent way.
Ken Traub is the founder of Ken Traub Consulting,
a Mass.-based firm providing services to software
product companies and enterprises that rely on
advanced software technology to run their
businesses. Send your software questions to
[email protected]
41
tuned in
Don’t Just Automate—Innovate!
RFID can do much more than speed up existing processes.
By Bill Hardgrave
42
any items not purchased could be returned to
the sales floor. That data could be married
with point-of-sale data, so the retailer could
determine the conversion rate of items taken
into the dressing rooms—impossible to know
with the existing process.
As an alternative to portals, RFID antennas could be
installed in each dressing
room, providing the opportunity to understand the
“basket” of items customers
consider. An interactive display, sometimes called a
magic mirror, could be
added to each dressing
room. It could read the RFID
tags on the items the customer tries on, and then
display related information,
such as other available colors and sizes, accompanying
accessories or garment care
instructions.
There are many more
examples, but I’m sure you get the idea. Using
RFID opens up an amazing number of possibilities—but only if a retailer is open to viewing the technology as a way to do things that
have been difficult, if not impossible, to do
with existing technology. Sure, you can use
RFID to make incremental improvements, but
don’t let your thinking go there immediately.
It’s time to think process enablement, not just
process improvement.
Bill Hardgrave is the dean of Auburn University’s
College of Business and the founder of University
of Arkansas’ RFID Research Center. He will
address other RFID adoption and business case
issues in this column. Send your questions to
[email protected]
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
ILLUSTRATION: MHJ | ISTOCKPHOTO
In my column, Move to
0HIO, I discussed a common mistake retailers
make: substituting RFID
for bar-code technology
and keeping the same
manual processes in place.
But automating processes
to reduce mistakes and
improve efficiencies is just the first step. To
truly benefit from RFID, retailers must move
beyond incremental improvements and use
the technology to introduce innovations.
Take Retailer X, for example, which wanted
to better understand its customers’ needs and
shopping habits. A few years ago, Retailer X
created a process to gain insight into the
clothes customers tried on but didn’t purchase. Any items taken to the dressing room
were held there until the end of the day, at
which time a store associate would bar-code
scan every item. It was a laborious process
that usually took a couple of hours. In addition, the retailer was missing potential sales
opportunities, because those items were kept
off the sales floor.
Recently, Retailer X conducted its first RFID
pilot to improve inventory accuracy. But it
used the same process to monitor items left in
the dressing rooms. Instead of bar-code scanning the items, a store associate used an RFID
handheld reader. This took significantly less
time—a few minutes rather than a couple of
hours—but that was the extent of the improvement. The same data was collected as before.
The retailer missed a great chance to create
a whole new process that would have delivered more valuable data and sales opportunities. If, for instance, the retailer had installed
RFID portals near the dressing rooms, it
would be able to monitor all items going into
and coming out of the dressing rooms—and
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RFID End-User
Case-Study DVDs
RFID Journal has created a series of DVDs
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ashton’s view
The Crisis of Consumption
Information can save us from eating, drinking and powering our way to extinction.
ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCKPHOTO | RFID JOURNAL
By Kevin Ashton
Since i waS born in the
late 1960s, the world population has doubled. Back
then, the average person
lived to be 52 years old.
Today, the average lifespan
is 70. With more of us living longer, our consumption of food, water and
other resources is increasing. Food intake, for
example, was 800,000 calories per person
per year in the late ’60s. Today, the
average person consumes more
than a million calories annually. The amount of water
each of us consumes—to
drink, bathe and grow all
that food—has doubled:
from 160,000 gallons per
year to nearly 330,000
gallons.
Despite the rise of the
Internet and the decline of
the newspaper, our use of paper
has more than doubled since I was
born: from 55 pounds per person annually
to 120 pounds. We have more energy-efficient
technology, but we also have more technology
overall, and more of the world has access to
electricity. We used 1,200 kilowatt hours per
person per year in 1968, and today we each use
2,900 kilowatt hours. Our consumption of
plastic has increased more than fivefold, from
14 pounds per person per year to 75 pounds.
When I was born, climate change was not
an issue. Today, no matter what oil-sponsored shills would have us believe, climate
change is both real and dangerous, and it is a
consequence of our crisis of consumption.
Climate change threatens our ability to feed,
water and otherwise care for the world’s
growing population.
RFID Journal • March/April 2013
This crisis of consumption is the result of
good things. More of us are living longer,
healthier lives, with enough to eat and drink.
Technology helps heal us when we are sick,
warm us when we are cold and cool us when
we are hot. We’re not going to select suffering
instead of comfort to avoid the distant danger
of extermination from overconsumption.
We cannot consume our way out of our
consumption crisis. The answer is, and must
be, information. Information is barely
physical; it requires only computers, cables and a bit of electricity. A lack of information
about the physical world is
one big reason we are in
this mess in the first
place. We cannot clearly
see what we have and
what we are doing with
it—and that results in
massive amounts of waste.
The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, for example, says leaks account for an average of 10,000 gallons of water wasted in
the home every year—enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. Most of us do not know
how much water we use personally—or how
much of that water we waste, and on what. We
can say the same of anything else we consume. If we had access to that information,
most of us would waste a lot less.
The system that will capture that information is the ubiquitous network of RFID and
sensor technologies called the Internet of
Things, which we are building now. And we
had better hurry up. By 2100, the world population is expected to double again.
Kevin Ashton was cofounder and executive
director of the Auto-ID Center.
45
INTRODUCING THE
ePix
Power Mapper 2
A battery-free tool to simplify
RFID deployments.
Features
» No battery—
uses RF energy
» Pocket-size
» Simple to use
» Works with all known
European and U.S. UHF
RFID readers
» Range can be adjusted
using external resistor
» A new 9dB attenuator
switch allows for closerange measurement
With the ePix Power Mapper, you are no longer
working in the dark. This meter is specially
designed to reveal null spots in the UHF radio field
as well as the edges of the read field. The meter
also shows polarization effects, ground and water
absorption and other problems that prevent energy
from reaching the tag.
The meter relies on the power of radio waves,
so it cannot give a false reading. And a new
attenuator switch enables you to get close-range
measurements.
To order your Power Mapper, go to
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